The consulting affiliate of Arthur Andersen & Co. is developing artificial-intelligence software for notebook-size computers to aid commercial lending officers on sales calls.
Andersen Consulting said it is developing the software with two partners, a commercial bank and a nonbank, both of which it declined to name.
A prototype was demonstrated this week at the American Bankers Association's National Operations and Automation Conference in Denver.
The consulting firm plans to begin testing with one of the partners next month and with the other by the end of the summer.
Continental Bank Cor. recently announced a similar use for tiny hand-held computers. But Continental would use electronic pens and touch-sensitive screens instead of keyboards. Like Andersen's, the system would let bankers originate loans in the field.
Chicago-based Continental plans to begin testing with 20 to 30 bankers at the end of the summer and ultimately expects to give the computers to as many as 400 trust officers, cash management officers, and other sales representatives.
Banks see the advanced device as a means of speeding loan authorizations and improving the quality of information sent from remote sites to the back office.
Banks also expect the technology to help them be more responsive to customer inquiries.
"We can increase the quality and the speed of our dealings with customers, and we can streamline communications," said Robert G. Schiewe, senior vice president in charge of centralized processing at Continental.
"What's new and different about what we're both doing is that the systems are portable, but they are really connected and are an integral part of the organization's information systems," said Charles McDonough, a partner at Andersen Consulting in Detroit and head of the development project.
Notebook computers could also help rreduce risk by allowing lending officers to keep closer tabs of their customers.
Andersen plans to include a risk management system that uses artificial intelligence, simulating human reasoning, to spot warning signs about customers. The software in the Andersen project runs on Miscrosoft Corp.'s Windows operating system.
Mr. McDonough said the software could be used by banks with up to $50 billion in assets.
In June, Andersen will deliver to one of its development partners 30 briefcases containing a notebook computer, a cellular telephone, a modem to send and receive facsimiles, and a portable printer, at a cost of about $5,500 per package.
$10,000 per Outfit
With spreadsheet and word processing software added, the cost of one briefcase will be just under $10,000, said Mr. McDonough.
The companies working with Andersen will evaluate the project at the end of the year, he said.
The Andersen software will allow lending officers to down-load files from headquarters and put together presentations before meeting with a client.
The lending officer can review the history of the customer rrelationship, set objectives for the call, and gather appropriate information from the corporate network or by fax.
The system evaluates risk at the time of underwriting and gives early warning that an existing customer deserves special scrutiny.